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TWiV 149 Letters

John writes:

Re the letter you got about a Spanish version of TWIV: ASM already has a nice Spanish microbiology podcast, called Mundos de los Microbios. Your TWIM co-host Elio has been on that podcast at least once that I’ve heard. Perhaps you could put the would-be Spanish TWIV guy in touch with that podcast’s host, Gary Toranzos, or with Elio. I’d love a virology podcast in Spanish, even though I won’t be able to listen at 2X like I do to the English language podcasts.


Geoffrey writes:


Just to let you know that my own literary research suggests that the several forms of historical (real life) “zombiism” are probably due to chemical rather than viral factors. If I ever finish it, it will be covered as a chapter in a book that I am writing on shamanism and shamanic drugs.

Although much of the caribbean zombie effect has been assigned to tetradotoxin, I believe that the effects of some of the other components have been underestimated. While caribbean zombies have become well-known (if not accurately portrayed) through the movies, it is less well-known that Europe had its own “zombie hordes”. Greek literature speaks of lycanthropes which were far more like zombies than werewolves and the Norse legends speak of living ghosts (draugr, I believe) of great warriors as well as housewives. Most of the european zombie stories speak of pathetic weak creatures. A few legends (especially norse ones) speak of killing machines eventually dispatched by living warriors. All of the legends describe these zombies as mentally deranged. Interestingly, I believe that a few recovered their mental facilities and “returned to life”. Skipping over a lot of the background, it seems likely that these “living dead” of Europe and the Americas were the result of accidental and deliberate overdoses of Jeckylltropes, tropane-containing herbal concoctions derived from members of the Solanum family (especially daturas). These Jeckylltropes seem to have included the zombie poison of Haiti and the witch’s flying ointment of Europe the effects of which can cause long-term derangement and suggestability.

Thus (real life) zombiism is of chemical etiology. A viral etiology is possible but has not, to the best of my knowledge, been observed.


Robert writes:

Love twip twim and twip. Found these through FiB. Great explanations and not dumbed down for those of us with at least two brain cells. Find every one able to communicate this field very well. Learning lots. Thanks lots.

Despommier is outstanding. Keep them coming. Can you speak upon the surface layers of viruses and how antibodies bind to this surface.

Natalie writes:

Dear TWIV crew,

I am a newcomer to your podcast and just want to start by saying how much I have been enjoying them. I learn a lot from each podcast and look forward to listening to them each week. A special thanks to Matt Evans for urging me to listen to you guys!

One of the best things about the podcast is the way you can explain things to the general audience. For example, I loved Vince’s definition of microfluidics on TWIV #142: “really tiny tubes, small amounts of fluid.” I wanted to draw your attention to another remarkable microfluidics paper, recently published in Nature Medicine entitled, “Microfluidics-based diagnostics of infectious diseases in the developing world.” The authors are able to detect HIV and syphilis with just 1ul of blood with their “mChip” assay. It is really exciting to think that this low-cost, rapid assay could be used, particularly in the developing world.

All the best, and keep up the good work!


P.S. I am currently an MD/PhD student in Peter Palese’s Lab. Vince, I just learned you did your PhD with Peter – I hope you have some good stories you could one day share (on or off the air!)

Thomas writes:

First off, I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have the TWix series! In addition to the witty banter, the shows do a great job of breaking down the normally jargon laden content in a lively and accessible way. While i’m literate in basic biology, ease of information uptake through simplicity works wonders.

Since I’m relatively late on the bandwagon of awesome, I’ve been steadily working through the archives of TWiV…no complaints so far.

This is the kind of content that works so well for shifting education paradigms. Free access, unassuming style, and “further reading” standards (links) seem (to me at least) to make a well-designed tool for the classroom. To what extent have you considered integrating the series with your classroom experience, and vice versa?

also, would you be open to the idea of building an episode or two from the ground up, a sort of “science on the streets” interactive style? It might be really neat to have a question session with a local middle school/high school classroom, to talk about some common misconceptions and otherwise intriguing experiments.

Tried to keep this short, but there’s one more thing:

Have you guys already covered (in unreleased) the latest update in the Haitian cholera paper? If not, it’s absolutely worth checking out:


Thank you for your time, and keep up the amazing work!


*ps, is it possible to balance out the audio slightly? there seems to be a mildly jarring change from speaker-to-speaker.


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